We have studied the contractile properties, structure, fiber-type composition, and myosin heavy chain (MyHC) expression pattern of regenerating and intact soleus muscles of adult CBA/J mice treated with cyclosporin A (CsA) or vehicle solutions (Cremophor, saline). A comparison of muscles after 4-7 weeks drug application with those receiving vehicle showed that the isometric contractile force of intact drug-treated muscles was reduced (tetanus, -21%; twitch, -34%) despite normal mass and muscle cross-sectional area. The frequency of fast-twitch fibers was increased, whereas no innervation deficits, histopathological alterations, or changes in fiber numbers were observed. Regeneration after cryolesion of the contralateral soleus proceeded more slowly in CsA-treated than in vehicle-treated animals. Despite this, when muscle properties reached mature levels (4-7 weeks), muscle mass recovery was better in CsA-treated animals (30% higher weight, 50% more fiber profiles in cross-sections). The force production per unit cross-sectional area was deficient, but not the maximum tension. Twitch time-to-peak and half-relaxation time were shorter than controls correlating with a predominance of fast-twitch fibers (98% Type II fibers versus 16%-18% in control muscles) and fast MyHC isoforms. Partial reversal of this fast phenotype and an increase in muscle force were observed when the animals were left to recover without treatment for 5-8 weeks after CsA application over 7 weeks. The high numbers of fiber profiles in CsA-treated regenerated muscles and increased mass remained unchanged after withdrawal. Thus, CsA treatment has a hyperplastic effect on regenerating muscles, and drug-induced phenotype alterations are much more prominent in regenerated muscles.